July 27, 2017
On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that his administration “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” claiming that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” That position contradicts the current policy of the U.S. Department of Defense, which over the past year has supported open service of transgender people in the U.S. armed forces.
The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (“AABA”) condemns this decision as a blatant act of prejudice. AABA President-Elect David Tsai explained, “This announcement not only disregards the valor and tremendous sacrifice of already enlisted transgender service members (estimated to be as many as 15,500 in 2014), but also reinforces the dangerous notion that transgender and gender nonconforming people are inherently different from, and pose a threat to, cisgender people.”
AABA notes that ethnic minorities, including over 30,000 Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, were historically required to serve in segregated units based on the same purported concerns about “disruption” and unit cohesion that President Trump cited yesterday. AABA also expresses concern that President Trump’s tweet advances a message that has long been used to justify ongoing violence against transgender individuals in our community that conflicts with our nation’s core values of equality.
Also on July 26, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover employment “discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The Justice Department’s decision ignores both the letter and spirit of Title VII, which is designed to protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Together with President Trump’s announcement regarding transgender individuals serving in the military, the Justice Department’s position appears to be part of a broader campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. “An attack on the LGBTQ community is an attack on all Americans who have suffered discrimination, historically and in the present day,” AABA President-Elect Tsai stated. “As such, AABA condemns both actions by President Trump and members of his administration.”